Predicting Which NCAA Basketball Sidekicks Will Become Stars in 2013-14
There is more star power at the collegiate level this season than there has been in quite some time (just ask all those tanking NBA teams), but it will take more than one incredible player to make the Final Four in March.
There will be plenty of “sidekicks” that will put up star-like numbers throughout the season. Read on to see a few of them.
One could put any number of players on this list, so let us know who you think belongs that was left out.
It’s almost not fair to call Rodney Hood a sidekick because he has more talent than the vast majority of go-to offensive players across the country, but when Jabari Parker is your teammate, that’s the way things go.
Hood is averaging 22 points, five rebounds, 2.3 assists and a steal per game, but his most impressive feat is the efficiency with which he is posting these numbers.
Hood is shooting 67 percent from the field and 69 percent from behind the three-point line with no signs of slowing anytime soon.
Hood is benefiting from the extra defensive attention that opponents are sending Parker’s way and will continue to do so throughout the season. There is a very legitimate chance that both Blue Devil stars will be members of the All-ACC team this year.
For all the preseason love that squads like Kentucky, Kansas and Duke received, it may be time to finally start recognizing Oklahoma State as a very real Final Four contender.
Marcus Smart is the best player in the country who isn’t a freshman, and he may just be the best player period. He put on one of the best performances of the young season against Memphis when he scored 39 points, but he’s not the only star lacing it up for the Cowboys.
Markel Brown put up 20 points in that game and followed it up with a 25-point performance against South Florida in the next contest.
He also posted eight rebounds and seven assists, three blocks and two steals against the Bulls, demonstrating how capable he is in all facets of the game.
Brown is incredibly talented, and he will have an inordinate amount of open looks playing alongside Smart.
He can hit the open three if defenses collapse on Smart’s penetration, finish through contact at the rim and create his own shots. Look for Brown to be a household name by March.
Despite a disappointing outing in the loss to North Carolina in which he fouled out and only scored five points, Montrezl Harrell has the chance to be a walking double-double this year.
Thus far, Harrell is averaging 12.5 points and just less than 10 rebounds a night.
He is also blocking nearly a shot a night and averaging 1.5 steals a contest. His prowess on both ends of the floor is why he has a chance to become a superstar alongside Russ Smith.
Gorgui Dieng was a critical piece in Louisville’s national title run last year, and Harrell is the best option to fill his role this season. The Cardinals are going to need his presence on defense and his knack for finding the basket when opposing defenders collapse on Smith.
Arizona is yet another top-notch team this year that counts a freshman as its star player (Aaron Gordon), but veteran Nick Johnson is putting up the best numbers of his career thus far.
Johnson is scoring 17 points and grabbing five rebounds a game while hitting an impressive 59 percent of his shots from the field. He has also been a force on the defensive end with blocked shots and a disruptive overall presence.
Consistency in the scoring department has been Johnson’s best attribute in the early going.
He posted 11, 14, 23, 16 and 20 points in the Wildcats’ first five games and hasn’t shot worse than 50 percent in any outing.
Championship teams that are dominated by freshmen often need a strong veteran presence to keep the team grounded during the peaks and valleys of a season. That is exactly what Arizona has in Johnson.
Perhaps you have heard of Andrew Wiggins.
After an offseason of establishing such a ridiculously high bar that even LeBron James himself would struggle to live up to it, Wiggins has still managed to guide the Jayhawks to an undefeated early record (including a victory over Parker and Duke) while scoring 17 points, grabbing six rebounds and proving himself on the defensive end.
However, Wiggins hasn’t done it alone.
Perry Ellis has posted the best numbers of his young career in the early going, including a 24-point and nine-rebound performance against the Blue Devils. On the season Ellis is averaging 17 points and seven rebounds a game.
Wiggins (and Wayne Selden to a lesser degree) will continue to draw the attention of opposing defenses all year, meaning Ellis will put up star-like numbers. The Jayhawks will need him to if they are going to hold off Oklahoma State in the Big 12.
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.